Two in three women at prison victims of domestic abuse
TWO-THIRDS of women entering Styal prison said they had experienced domestic violence and almost a fifth admitted to having been involved in sex work, a new report reveals.
The shocking figures were supplied by the jail to HM Inspectorate of Prisons for inclusion in its latest report, published today.
All women are surveyed on arrival and during the inspection in April and May, the prison’s population was 441.
The Cheshire jail – the only women’s prison in the region – was praised for its conditions in the report, which says it provides a ‘safe and decent’ environment which ‘emphasised aspiration and hope’.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said ‘nearly all’ women arrive with significant needs, including histories of suicide attempts and selfharm, mental health issues and substance abuse and experience of ‘trauma and abuse’.
But he praised staff for their professionalism, competence and commitment, saying levels mirrored the findings of the last inspection in 2014.
The report highlighted the introduction of new programmes for domestic violence victims, with further support offered by psychologists.
Use of a nationallyaccredited scheme to help women who were involved in sex work was also praised.
The report revealed ‘very high’ levels of selfharm, with 735 incidents reported in the six months to March, although they were ‘often accounted for by a small number of women’.
There has been one ‘self-inflicted death’ at Styal since 2014.
Overall the report said an ‘extensive range of interventions’ was available to support women vulnerable to self-harm, including programmes of daily activities, support groups and a specialist self-harm programme.
Inspectors found a ‘strong focus on decency’ with the amount of time women spend out of cells said to be ‘better than inspectors often see’.
Formal and recreational activities, learning and skills opportunities and work provision had all been enhanced.
“The focus on raising aspirations was excellent, as was the use of peer mentors,” Mr Clarke said.
But the report found a ‘significant shortage of stable accommodation in the community for released women’.
Mr Clarke said: “They ●● received good care while at Styal, and were often stabilised, supported and helped to address poor behaviour and other problems in their lives, only for this to fall apart once they were released, often leading to another custodial sentence.” The Ministry of Justice was also urged to reconsider estate rules currently preventing a project to refurbish disused houses in the grounds to provide supported accommodation.
Mr Clarke said: “Overall the prison is very well led, and achieves a good balance between providing care and support and challenging problematic behaviour.”
Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prison and Probation Service, said: “This is a very good inspection outcome which reflects the excellent work being undertaken at Styal – particularly in supporting vulnerable women, including those who selfharm.
“Developing a positive rehabilitative culture is key to helping women to turn their lives around and the achievements at Styal are a credit to all involved.”
Styal prison was built in 1898 and operated as a children’s home until 1956. In 1963, it opened as a semi-secure prison for women and secure accommodation was built in 1999.
Styal Prison, Styal, Wilmslow.